Italian Government Bans Loans to Minneapolis Institute of Art

Italian Government Banned Loans to The Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA), Which Happened After a Years-Long Dispute.

Apr 23, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Italian Government
Polykleitos, Doryphoros (Spear-Bearer) or Canon. Photo: Steven Zucker.


Italian government banned loans to the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA). This happened following a protracted legal battle over a Pentelic marble replica of a missing copper sculpture by the classical Greek artist Polykleitos. This marble depicts the “spear-bearer” Doryphoros.


Italian Government Seeks Repatriation of Pieces

Italian Government


The work of art is presently on display at the MIA and is over six feet high. But, Italy claims someone stole the piece in the 1970s from the archaeological site at Stabiae. Also, the country sought the repatriation of the Doryphoros. Nunzio Fragliasso, chief prosecutor at the Torre Annunziata court, stated at a press conference in Pompeii in February that the demand was ignored.


The Doryphoros statue turned up in international waters close to the Italian shore, according to the MIA, who paid $2.5 million for it in 1986. This means Italy is not the owner of the work. Massimo Osanna, the director of museums for the Italian cultural ministry, forbade state museums from lending pieces to the MIA due to the conflict.


polykleitos doryphoros minneapolis institute art, Italian Government
The Doryphoros, after Polykleitos, ca. 27-68 BCE, via


The Italian culture minister reportedly told Katherine Crawford Luber, MIA’s director, that the disagreement over the statue “prevents further collaboration between Italian state museums and the Minneapolis museum”. Italy intends to include the Doryphoros in the long-term collection of the recently rebuilt archaeological museum in Castellammare di Stabia, which reopened on March 4.

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Not the First Time of Prohibiting Loans to the US

netsuke fox woman
Netsuke (Fox Woman), late 18th Century. Source: Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota.


Italy sought to address the dispute since the 2022 request. The country loaned ten pieces by Botticelli from Florence’s Uffizi Gallery to the MIA in that same year. Also, last year, it loaned the Palazzo Barberini’s Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes (1599). “The ministry has made every effort to find an amicable solution to the issue”, Osanna told the Italian news outlet La Repubblica.


Italy previously prohibited loans to museums in the United States for failing to return artwork that it feels it is entitled to. In 2020 the country began “limiting relations” with the Getty Villa Museum in Los Angeles, after the Getty refused to return an ancient Greek bronze discovered in 1964 by fishermen near Pesaro, on Italy’s Adriatic coast. It remains to find out how Italian and US authorities will resolve the ongoing dispute over precious marbles.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.